January 4th, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

If I Were Designing a Cyberpunk Game (#02)

To me, the defining line to explain what the hero (player) in a cyberpunk online roleplaying game should be like comes very early in William Gibson's Neuromancer, when the owner/bartender of a seedy bar refers to our hero, Case, as "the artiste of the slightly shady deal." In almost every cyberpunk short story and novel, what the hero wants can be summed up in one word: he or she wants out, and Case is no exception. He's doing increasingly desperate deals in order to raise the money to get his cybernetic implants repaired, so that he can go back to his life as a professional hacker.

The way that I would implement it this quest would be to create three character classes:
  • Dealers make deals, with a goal towards getting wealthy enough to get out of the slums. Whether the deal is legal or illegal, whether hardware, software, weapons, or drugs. But the real stock in trade of a Dealer, no matter what they deal, is the Deal itself. A Dealer specializes in know who has what, and who needs what, and who knows each of them.
  • Artistes make art, or fashion, or music, or video, or computer games, or any other entertainment product that wealthy people might want if they only knew it existed. Their plan is to become famous enough that their celebrity lifts them up out of the slum.
  • Scavengers make it possible to live inside the slum. They know where to find the things that wealthy society turned its back on or throws away, whether food, or stealable power and data access, or broken or obsolete electronics that can be repurposed, or abandoned real estate that can be turned into living and working space. What separates the scavengers from the artistes and the dealers is that they no longer hope to get out of the slum. Maybe they're failed dealers or artistes themselves. But the still-striving dealers and artistes desperately need the scavengers.
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